Small settlement projects to be approved

Govt to let settlement

The government plans on Thursday to update its decision to freeze settlement construction and thereby return some of the decision-making powers to the local settlement councils, officials said Wednesday. Under the current decision, made last month by the government, all construction is forbidden in the 150 settlements and outposts in the West Bank. A revision of the order is currently underway and will give local councils in the West Bank the authority to approve projects related to public infrastructure and small repairs on existing homes. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided to establish a committee to deal with complaints that might arise during the moratorium period. The committee will be headed by Civil Administration chief Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai in coordination with the Defense Ministry. The committee will have the authority to compensate contractors who have lost considerable amounts of money due to the moratorium, as well as ordinary citizens who, for example, sold their homes and hoped to begin building a new one but now have to find an alternative place to live. Under the new order that will go into effect next week, the settlement local council chiefs will be able to approve infrastructure projects, such as sewage and road projects, as well as small home-improvement projects, such as closing in patios, building an air-conditioning system or constructing a window in a house. Meanwhile Wednesday, police began conducting regular patrols near Mordechai's home after receiving intelligence that the civil administration chief might be targeted by right-wing extremists due to his involvement in the moratorium. On Tuesday, defense officials confirmed reports that Barak's security detail had been beefed up after he received threats against his life. Earlier in the week, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said that it was investigating the source of a number of threats made against Police Insp.-Gen. Dudi Cohen. Police believe that the threats were made by right-wing extremists angry at Cohen for saying that security forces would ensure that the moratorium is implemented. According to some assessments within the defense establishment, there are several dozen settlers in the West Bank who would not hesitate to use extreme violence to stop the evacuation of a settlement. Among this group of several dozen, there are believed to be a small handful of people who would be prepared to target politicians in an effort to stop a withdrawal.